I witnessed a really funny thing. Well, a sadly funny thing. I accompanied a friend to Lowe’s home improvement. She had received a direct mail promotion containing a gift card that provided $10 toward any project purchase totaling $50 or more. Great! We were both excited to get cracking on that new painting project she had on her to-do list.
Trouble is Lowe’s didn’t really have what she wanted and the card expired that day. So, in the spirit of paying it forward, she went to the checkout area and targeted folks in line that obviously had more than $50 worth of merchandise.
A few minutes later she left the store, completely disappointed. Not because she didn’t get to use her gift card and advance her project, but because she had the obvious remedy for others pocketbook pain, but people’s biases were so big it prevented them from receiving free money. She wasn’t wearing a hat labeled scammer but she may as well have been. Perhaps it was less about her and more about the fact that since they were in the checkout line they had already established the pattern in their brain that they prepared to pay for their purchases – a free gift card offered by a stranger didn’t fit that pattern. Also, it probably didn’t help that we’ve all been conditioned to believe there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Sometimes the answer or help is right in front of you if you can re-frame your view of the situation, get past your biases and break your established patterns. Give others a seat at the table, listen to what they say. By doing so, you could brighten their day and ultimately benefit yourself. Your employee, your neighbor, the next phone call, some other stakeholder or the entrepreneurial kid trying to sell you a cup of lemonade – each of them has a story that connects with your own. But, does your bias allow you to hear it?
See related post on Innovation Squelchers: Pattern Thinking, Biases, and Gator Brains
See related presentation on slideshare: The Wall